Jeremiah, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Lent 5B

By Heart

Dear Everyone Who Thinks God Never Changes,

I present to you Jeremiah 31:31-34.

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Oh, I suppose you could make the argument that God plans it that way all along, so God is unchanging.

But that’s tiresomely stubborn.

This God we worship is so clearly relational. And relationships work on us. Good relationships exalt us and inspire us and give us hope.

Even bad relationships work on us, teaching us to be more careful next time or to amend our ways or even to seek other seas.

And regular relationships, which is to say, the ones we work on because the love is mutual, have moments of both good and bad. And I would like to make the case that our relationship with God is the best kind of regular relationship, one that goes bad on both sides, sometimes, but that always has enough good to keep us coming back and to open us to be fuller, deeper, more loving, more forgiving and more conscious of where we tend to go wrong.

This God of Jeremiah 31 learned that laying down the law was not enough. The law must be learned by heart, become so much a part of us that we don’t have to use our heads to apprehend it.
It sounds so simple, but we have such highly developed shell casings around our hearts, we people. We don’t want to trust love. We are ambitious or anxious. We want to feel powerful. We convince ourselves that safety lies in weapons. We use them on other people, regardless of the law’s opinion.

I’m sick at heart about Trayvon Martin. I am thinking of his parents tonight, and of a better world in which the hard hearts of the fearful and the hateful and the plain ignorant are softened and opened and written on by God. I believe God is willing, has been willing to have that relationship with us. But we are still putting up barriers.

I have barriers of my own. They may not look like an SUV and a 9 millimeter weapon, but I have them. I’m praying they will drop, too, that I will be among those who know God, by heart.

I hope you will be, too.